An experiment with technology went haywire for the Reds in a game against the Cardinals.
Sixty years ago, on Aug. 18, 1961, Reds manager Fred Hutchinson used a shortwave radio to communicate instructions from the bench to his third-base coach.
The innovative effort lasted an inning before Hutchinson went back to using traditional hand signals to relay signs.
The Reds were the surprise of the National League in 1961. In addition to talents such as Frank Robinson, Vada Pinson and Wally Post, the Reds were loaded with former Cardinals. They included the manager (Fred Hutchinson), hitting coach (Dick Sisler), relief ace (Jim Brosnan) and three infield starters (second baseman Don Blasingame, shortstop Eddie Kasko and third baseman Gene Freese).
On Aug. 18, the Reds (73-46) were in first place, 13 games ahead of St. Louis (58-57) and one ahead of the second-place Dodgers (69-44), entering a weekend series with the Cardinals at Cincinnati.
Earlier that season, the Dodgers unveiled a walkie-talkie system for manager Walter Alston to communicate with base coaches, the Dayton Journal-Herald reported. The Reds were determined not to be left out of the modern communications game.
Before the series opener against the Cardinals, Hutchinson informed reporters of the new way he planned to send instructions to the third-base coach.
Hutchinson had a microphone in the dugout and coach Reggie Otero, stationed at third, was provided an earpiece.
“A blue wire, connected to an amplifier in the dugout, has been run underground to the third-base coaching box, where it forms a loop around Otero,” the Dayton Journal-Herald reported. “Otero is equipped with a receiver under his shirt and an earplug. Anything broadcast through the amplifier can be heard by Otero as long as he’s within the loop.”
In the first inning, Otero heard Hutchinson’s instructions just fine. Problem was, so did a lot of others.
Because of a snafu in the system, Hutchinson’s instructions to Otero also were coming through the loudspeaker in the press box.
Fans in seats near the press box could hear what was being said, too, United Press International reported.
“It threw the Reds’ bosses into a tizzy,” the Associated Press noted.
General manager Bill DeWitt Sr. called Hutchinson in the dugout and told him to stop using the shortwave device.
Hutchinson went back to using hand signals to send signs to Otero, who relayed them the same way to the batters and runners.
Unfazed, the Reds scored four runs in four innings against Bob Gibson. Gordy Coleman hit a three-run triple with two outs in the first. Frank Robinson stole home with two outs in the third.
Behind the complete-game pitching of American League castoff Ken Johnson, who mixed knuckleballs with sinkers, the Reds won, 6-3. Boxscore
They finished the season four games ahead of the Dodgers and became National League champions for the first time in 21 years.